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Combating Terrorism Requires Action

August 25, 2014
Weekly Columns

Last week, the world was horrified when we learned that American journalist, James Foley, was brutally murdered in cold blood by ISIS extremists. But this wasn’t the first instance of violence by these terrorists, nor is it likely to be the last if they are not stopped. 

Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS formed out of al-Qaeda last year and has been terrorizing various areas between Iraq and Syria ever since, including its taking of Mosul in June.  Seen as even more extreme and more dangerous than other jihadist organizations, ISIS has even been publicly denounced by other terrorists for the brutality of its tactics. Even so, the terrorist organization has been gaining steam, claiming territory and garnering support in its effort to establish a terrorist state—so far without much discouragement or deterrence. And the effort doesn’t just include members from Syria and Iraq but also recruits from other countries. As many as 3,000 citizens from Western countries have reportedly joined ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. 

As ISIS gains more ground, it becomes more emboldened, which was evident earlier this summer when it was renamed Islamic State, confirming its desire to create an Islamic stronghold in the region. Though initially funded by private anti-Shia investors or Sunni sympathizers, ISIS has gained additional strength by stealing money from Iraqi banks and weapons and equipment from Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Because these terrorists haven’t been stopped, their influence, violence and destruction has increased, including the persecution of Iraqi Christians, Kurds and other religious minorities. 

Earlier this month, ISIS taking of Sinjar and Qaraposh caused thousands of religious minorities to flee persecution or execution by seeking refuge in Kurdish-controlled territory. This displacement and ISIS bullying of so many people led the United States to provide aid to refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar. But beyond humanitarian aid, the president called for U.S. air strikes that helped ISF reclaim control of the Mosul dam—assistance that ISIS called its reason for murdering Foley last week.

Despite its short lifespan, ISIS poses a threat far beyond the region in which it currently operates. Diffusing the threat requires a calculated and swift response from the United States. The longer we allow these terrorists to feel empowered, the more difficult it will be for their influence to be dispelled and their violence eliminated. 

Unfortunately, the current violence might have been prevented if American troops were not prematurely taken out of Iraq in 2009, destabilizing the region and squandering the achievements of the previous mission. The foundation built was also quickly shaken by the corrupt leadership of Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who allowed the country’s military to resemble a militia that favored the Shia sect of Islam, pushing away Sunni Muslims into the hands of extremists. 

So far, the United States has only reacted to specific acts of terror in the region. Currently acting under the War Powers Act, the president is allowed 60 days of unauthorized military activity against this terrorist group. However, any further military intervention must and should have congressional authorization. The president would be well-advised to ask for a vote in Congress long before this 60-day period expires in order to display a Congress and president that desire to work together in finding the best way to combat this terrorist organization. 

Before the events of the last several weeks, the House of Representatives passed the McGovern Amendment that would require the president to consult and seek authorization from Congress before taking any further action in Iraq, especially before sending American troops or other military support. In this tricky situation, it is critical that Congress and the president navigate together and make decisions together. If Congress and the president are not on the same page, the American people will lose confidence in the objectives of any future military action.

We must act quickly to prevent further mobilization of these terrorists, who have already proved their disregard for human life and intention to do harm. But before any action can be taken, the president must sell a clear strategy and mission to the American people, and he should work with Congress to approve and implement such plans.